From Tree Nursery to Tree Planting: Part 1

Sometimes I work at the town landfill. And in actuality, it is often rather fun because apart from disposing of lots of trash, they also make a lot of compost, have over 20 vermiculture beds, and have an old, unkempt tree nursery. This is the story of my fun times at the landfill, and how we launched an impromptu reforestation project.

This post is the first of a series that will cover one of my larger projects here in Caraz; building a tree nursery & consequently planting the trees grown. I will be publishing one post in this blog series/week over the next month or so. This series will cover all aspects of the project, starting with planning, the actual creation of the nursery infrastructure, the plant production, and finally the most rewarding component: tree planting. I hope you enjoy the series, and be sure to check in each week for the latest installment in this great tree-venture.

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Way back in July of 2016, the gerente (boss) of the Gerencia de Servicios a la Ciudad y Gestión Ambiental (Department of City Services and Environmental Management) of the Municipalidad Provincial de Huaylas (Provincial Municipality of Huaylas) and I were approached by a group of students from the local university. As part of their studies, the students had to create a work plan to address a local issue in the community. This group chose to address some of the environmental issues facing Caraz, notably the dirtiness, contamination, and abundance of trash often found at the town market.

Now, you might be thinking, but wait, this is supposed to be a series about trees, why are you talking about trash in the town market? Well, over a few meetings, I worked with the group to develop their plan about the trash in the market, but during these visits, it became clear there was a desire to do more. And so, my boss at the Municipality talked the students into become a somewhat more formalized entity, a group of sorts that would collaborate with the municipality on environmental activities and projects. Thus formed the Club Verde (check them out in this other post).

So, now that we had a committed group of young people, we began to brainstorm some plans for potential collaborations, other than addressing the trash concerns in the market. One of the big ideas we settled on was to do a big reforestation campaign, planting lots of trees around Caraz. However, we had one big question: where are we going to get all of the trees?

Well, we quickly realized that we were going to have to produce our own trees if we wanted trees to plant. But where? In the end, we settled on the town’s landfill since it conveniently had old, unused tree nursery infrastructure, as well as an abundance of organic fertilizer (compost, humus), which would be essential for tree production. And so, the stage was set: we would reactivate the landfill’s tree nursery.

But what does “reactivate” a tree nursery mean? Tree nurseries aren’t robots or computers. Well, it depends. Tree nurseries require many components to function: a water source, a system of irrigation, a source of organic material for the soil substrate, germination beds to grow the plants, shade (young plants can burn with too much sunlight), regular workers, etc. In our case, most of the infrastructure was present, but was just old and unkempt, having been left unused for several years. Consequently for us, “reactivating” the tree nursery meant first and foremost a LOT of cleaning.

Across two to three visits to the landfill, the Club Verde, some of the landfill workers, and myself spent most of our time de-weeding and reforming the once immaculate germination beds (long cut-outs where the trees are grown). After a lot of work, we managed to get 6 germination beds up to snuff, meaning we could commence with the following phase of the project.

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De-weeding and digging out the germination beds.
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Lots of shoveling was involved

Check-in next week for phase 2 of the tree nursery reactivation project.

Until next time,

MGB

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Foto Friday: Green Spaces and Sustainability

As an environmental management Peace Corps Volunteer, my three work goals have to do with Environmental Education, Natural Resource Management, and Solid Waste Management. While most of my work has been centered in the Municipality with trash management, this year I branched out and begun working in the largest school in Caraz, I.E. Micelino Sandoval Torres.

Over the past few months, I have been working with the Environmental Committee of teachers to elaborate an integrated environmental plan to implement in the school for this year. The plan has various activities ranging from presentations about the environment, improving the school’s trash management system, and teaching the kids about proper personal hygiene. However, another important component of the plan is the creation of more green areas and spaces within the school. After lots of planning in the elaboration of the plan, 2 weeks ago we finally took our first steps to achieve the goal of making the school greener.

At the beginning of June, the school Director, a few teachers of the Environmental committee, and myself walked around the grounds of the school to identify all of the free spaces which currently lacked greenery and maintenance. In total, we identified 21 spaces within the school, 21 spaces which were photographed and then marked on a map to be distributed to the different teachers. Below you can see one of the larger areas available within the school; as you can see, there is a lot that can be done in the space.

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I wonder what this will look like in a few weeks/months.

Last week, the Environmental Committee began distributing the map with corresponding photos among the different elementary and high school teachers so that each teacher can claim a space for their students. The idea is that one (or a few) class(es) will be responsable for each area within the school, using the spaces to plant grass, trees, flowers, or even to create a garden to produce some vegetables for the school breakfast system known as Qaliwarma.

The hope is that in the following weeks, the teachers and students will begin formulating and implementing their plans, and that by the end of the school year in December, the school with have a much greener and healthier look. Hopefully in a few months I will be able to post some photos of the before & after shots of the school.

While elaborating the environmental plan with the teachers took a while, it was worthwhile since the projects and activities implemented won’t be of my own design, but rather of the teachers. Yes, I will be helping with the activities, and yes, I may have helped with some of the organization of the environmental plan, but at the end of the day, the plan was made by the teachers and will be implemented by them. As Peace Corps Volunteers we are here to develop capacities and work sustainably, and while this is the longer and less traveled road in development, for me it seems worth it despite the challenges.

Until next time,

MGB

Foto Friday: Pastoruri Glacier & Climate Change

If you didn’t know, Perú is ranked #3 in terms of countries most at-risk for the effects of climate change. Even only having lived here for a little over a year, the evidence of Climate Change is quite apparent; the once consistent dry and rainy seasons are now changing significantly from year to year. On top of this, an abundance of anecdotal evidence from rural communities as well as verified scientific data, shows that in many parts of Áncash and all of Perú, temperatures are more extreme than before, and weather patterns are different. In Perú, the most notable evidence of climate change would have to be the melting of glaciers along Perú’s Cordillera Blanca, which is a part of the Andes Chain.

During Holy Week in March, I had the chance to visit some touristy locations in Áncash with a few other Volunteers. The first place we visited was the Pastoruri Glacier, perhaps the most prominent example of the effects of Climate Change here in Áncash. Believe it or not, the Pastoruri Glacier used to be a skiing destination here in Perú, but as you can see in the photo below, there isn’t much left to ski on. To give you an idea of how big the glacier used to be, most of the black areas in the photo below used to be covered in ice and snow.

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Pastoruri Glacier in Huascarán National Park, Áncash, Perú

The Pastoruri Glacier is such a prime example of the effects of climate change, that they even established a Climate Change Route at the visitor’s center and along the walk to the Glacier in order to educate visitors about the effects of Climate Change in Perú.

As an environmental Volunteer, it is disheartening looking up at the various snow-capped mountains in Áncash, knowing that in 20, 30, 50 years, they might have all disappeared or at least become shadows of their former selves, as has Pastoruri. Climate Change is a global concern, but I think we, as humans, often think it is such a large, overwhelming problem, that there is nothing we can do on an individual level to contribute to the solution.

However, there is one simple way in which communities all across the world can “fight” Climate Change; plant a tree. Most scientists agree that Climate Change is occurring due to the increase of CO2 (once trapped underground as fossil fuels) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So how does planting a tree help? Well, trees absorb CO2 in order to grow, and therefore serve as Carbon Sinks, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and instead “trapping” it in their woody bodies. Plus, when we plant trees, we get all of the other benefits such as increased Oxygen production, soil conservation, shade, water conservation, water purification, etc.

So maybe it is too late for Pastoruri, and maybe it is too late for the rest of the glaciers here in Perú, but I hope that we as a global society can do something to curb the speed of Climate Change, whether that be by planting trees or switching over to renewable energies.

Until next time,

MGB

P.S. Get out there and plant some trees; fighting climate change one tree at a time.